I like the look of the new green away shirt and it will not be the first time that the club have played in that colour. At various times throughout their history green has been used as the first choice strip as well as an alternative when colours have clashed.
After temporarily disbanding in 1899 Chester emerged at their new ground in Whipcord Lane in 1901 and played in various combinations of green and white until 1920 when they switched to black and white stripes. It appears to have been a dark green shirt and team photographs suggest that the club also played in green and white stripes. More recently the club switched to green shirts with gold trim and white shorts from 1959 to 1962 but more of that later.
By the time Chester entered the Football League in 1931 they had already adopted what we now consider the traditional blue and white stripes but initially used green as a change strip. For their first ever Division Three North away fixture, at Wrexham, Chester were forced to switch to green because of a clash with the home side’s blue shirts. Hard to imagine now.
More recently, in an era of some truly awful shirts, City used green and black stripes as an alternative in 1995/96 and green and black checks in 1997/98. The 1995 option was actually described as jade and black and I personally rate it as one of the best away strips the club has used. The less said about the checked shirt the better.
When Chester changed from blue and white stripes to green and gold in 1959 it was reported in the Cheshire Observer that the switch was made to avoid changes when colours clashed at away grounds. These days it seems to be the done thing for a club to automatically revert to a different strip for away games but at the end of the 1950s clubs would only change shirts if absolutely necessary. Blue was a popular colour at the time and a number of other clubs appear to have changed in 1959 including Watford (blue to yellow) and Southend (blue to white). With Cardiff City reputedly changing from blue to red next season it’s interesting to note that there were no reported objections when the change was announced at Chester.
In changing to green Chester became one of only two teams to play in that colour alongside Plymouth Argyle. There doesn’t seem to be any explanation as to why green was chosen but it appears to have been chosen for its rarity value rather than as a conscious move to revert to the green used at the start of the twentieth century. There certainly seems to have been no rational reason why gold should be chosen for the collar and cuffs.
The change in colours marked the beginning of Stan Pearson’s first full season in charge. The former Manchester United and England international had taken over as player-manager in March 1959 but the new kit brought little luck and became associated with a particularly bad run in the club’s history. The “continental style” kit had its initial outing in the traditional trial game at Sealand Road when the first team wore it against the reserves and promptly lost 3-1. It made its first appearance in a league game at Notts County where Chester lost 2-1 after Eric Davis had given Pearson’s side a first half lead.
Chester managed to narrowly avoid re-election in 1959/60 but the next two campaigns proved disastrous with two bottom of the league finishes. The green kit outlasted Pearson who was sacked after a 1-0 FA Cup defeat to non-league Morecambe at Sealand Road in November 1961. By that time Chester were in the middle of a run of 26 league games without a win and the green shirt was seen by some supporters as one of the factors behind this run.
In December, after a 3-2 home defeat to Aldershot, the Cheshire Observer reported that one gentleman in the boardroom had put the blame on defeat on the green shirts. There certainly seems to have been a general feeling amongst supporters that the colours were associated with bad luck and that the green was not bringing Chester the luck of the Irish. Many fans also expressed their regret that the traditional blue and white stripes had been abandoned as this was still associated with many pre-war achievements.
At the end of March 1962 the club announced they were discarding the green and gold and replacing it with white shirts with narrow blue vertical stripes and the new kit was first used in a friendly against German side Hamborn in April. Chester had briefly flirted with white shirts and black shorts in the weeks leading up to the announcement although ironically they were wearing the green and gold when the long run without a win was ended with a 4-1 victory over Chesterfield.
I’ve never seen a colour photograph of the old green shirt but even in the black and white pictures it comes across as an extremely lacklustre kit. Next season’s away shirt looks a lot more vibrant and it’s impossible to imagine it having the same disastrous effect as the early 1960s version.
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